The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has brought together a collective of life-sciences companies in an effort to accelerate development, production and delivery of COVID-19 treatments, tests and vaccines. The initiative is designed to pool the organizations’ assets, resources and knowledge necessary to tackle solutions in response to the global pandemic.
Global health resources
A Gates Foundation representative told Outsourcing-Pharma that contributing to this COVID-19 initiative fits in with the foundation’s belief in the importance of taking a “multi-sectoral approach” to helping combat pressing health and development challenges around the world.
“For more than a decade, foundation leadership, including Bill Gates, has met with life science company CEOs to discuss action on a range of topics related to global health,” they said. “Outcomes have included collective action to address neglected tropical diseases and tuberculosis.”
The representative added the Gates Foundation offers deep familiarity with health issues around the world, and the ability to connect communities that need help with organizations that offer resources needed to provide effective assistance.
“The foundation brings its knowledge of the global health space, as well as the opportunity to partner with our grantees who can benefit from the skills, expertise and capacity that industry brings to the challenges of global health,” they said.
Industry companies contributing resources and knowledge to the COVID-19 collective include BD, Boehringer Ingelheim, bioMerieux, Eisai, Eli Lilly, Gilead, GSK, J&J, Merck (MSD), Merck (Merck KGaA), Novartis, Pfizer and Sanofi.
The companies are working to pinpoint actions that will speed up the availability of treatments, vaccines, and diagnostics. The 15 companies have assented to share their libraries of molecular compounds that already have some degree of safety and activity data.
This repository of information will be used by the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator. Launched by the Gates Foundation, Wellcome, and Mastercard with a total of up to $125m in pledged funding, the Therapeutics Accelerator will evaluate new and repurposed drugs and biologics to treat patients with COVID-19 in the immediate term, addressing other viral pathogens in the longer term.
According to the Foundation, hits uncovered by the Therapeutics Accelerator’s efforts would move rapidly into in vivo trials in as little as two months.
Vas Narasimhan, CEO of Novartis, said leadership of his company feels an obligation to look for and take advantage of opportunities to collaborate on COVID-19 solutions.
“In addition to the individual contributions companies are already making, collective action is critical to ensure any promising studies into vaccines, drugs, and diagnostics are quickly scaled to people around the world who are affected by this pandemic,” he said.
Pool of knowledge
Mark Suzman, Gates Foundation CEO, added that partnering with companies enables his organizations and other groups pursuing COVID-19 solutions to tap into a well of valuable industry knowledge.
“The private sector is where the technical skills from discovery to clinical trials to commercialization know-how sits,” he said. “ We look to harness that knowledge and experience, combine it where possible, to connect with national regulators and the World Health Organization to see if we can help flatten the curve of this pandemic and make sure the results reach everyone around the world, particularly those at highest risk and the poorest.”
To date, numerous trials of existing drugs, as well as development of new diagnostic tests, compounds, and investigational vaccines are underway in laboratories across the globe. Companies like those involved in the collective will need to put products with demonstrated efficacy in clinical trials, scaled-up of manufacturing, and distribution if proven effective.
Suzman added, “While each of the partners will also be pursuing other efforts in partnership with national governments and other partners, it is a great example of why we are optimistic that this unprecedented collaboration will provide a platform for a fundamentally different kind of partnership to help address this global health emergency.”